DB Schenker launches virtual warehouses

  • October 3, 2022
  • William Payne

The logistics business of Deutsche Bahn, DB Schenker, has embraced “virtual warehouse”, thanks to 3D printing. The company is providing spare parts delivery via 3D printing. Products listed in the company’s virtual warehouse can delivered in a very short time, and are manufactured locally to where they are needed.

The company claims that they are the first global logistics provider to offer 3D printing and virtual warehousing. The advantage for customers is that supply of spare parts becomes faster, cheaper and more sustainable.

According to DB Schenker chief executive, Jochen Thewes, the virtual warehouse lowers delivery costs, shortens delivery times, and protects the environment. “This exemplifies what the logistics of the future can do for customers. The aim is to avoid unnecessary warehousing and to make supply chains even more stable and flexible,” said Thewes.

“We are the first global logistics provider to offer spare parts delivery via 3D printing. Products from our virtual warehouse are available in a very short time and are manufactured exactly where they are needed,” said Thewes.

“We want to shorten distances and at the same time keep products available faster and cheaper. To achieve this, we are fully committed to digital innovations,” Thewes said. 

In pilot projects, DB Schenker has tested the virtual warehouse, designed for customers from the mechanical engineering, automotive, and rail transport markets. Parts such as handles, cladding, and housings have been produced on demand close to the customer. Without pre-production and storage, on-demand production reduces capital commitment costs. The new Schenker service with a virtual warehouse is now being offered to a range of customers worldwide.

DB Schenker collaborates closely with Deutsche Bahn, which already has experience in 3D printing – with 80,000 parts manufactured from various materials and technologies. “According to our findings, up to ten percent of companies’ inventories can be manufactured on site,” said Thewes. Spare parts that are needed relatively infrequently and parts that have to be stored in large numbers due to high minimum purchase quantities are particularly suitable for 3D printing. The virtual storage of the components is done by the safe upload of the 3D blueprints in the cloud.

DB Schenker has also made other recent innovations, including a “Digital Control Tower” of land transport, which makes 9,000 consolidated transports across Europe traceable in real-time every day. DB Schenker’s “Intercontinental Supply Chain Solutions” in air and ocean freight use artificial intelligence, real-time data, and interactive information platforms to make customers’ supply chains more resilient and sustainable. In warehousing, DB Schenker relies on sensor technology to ensure the employees’ healthcare during the pandemic, and inspections via data glasses to avoid travel and transport expenses.